Pokes Stun Mizzou, Lose to A&M

That magic. That excitement. That aura of loudness Gallagher Iba Arena echoed some 8 years ago seemed to re-enter the building last week. The Oklahoma State Cowboys stunned the number 2 ranked Missouri Tigers last Wednesday night to begin to state their case as a "bubble team". What a night for freshman LeBryan Nash. He scored 27 points and clearly felt comfortable in the spotlight. Students rushed the floor, the building was buzzing late in the second half and you could ALMOST hear the echoes of the early 2000's Cowboys.

I said "almost". 

Continue reading Pokes Stun Mizzou, Lose to A&M

Three days later, the Pokes traveled to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies. This was a game the Cowboys certainly needed. I won't call today's a loss a season ender, but it really had to kill what momentum Oklahoma State had going. The Aggies aren't bad, but they aren't that good, either. They have a couple of good players and a really enthusiastic fan base. Other than that, they are mediocre in the Big 12. The Cowboys needed this. The players knew it. The coaches knew it. The fans knew it. They just didn't have it all together today. After starting 9-15 from the floor, the wheels fell off and the Pokes couldn't get it back on track. They do have one good thing to take from this game…the have winless Texas Tech next. Should be an easy win.

The loss today drops the Cowboys to 10-11 on the season with a 3-5 conference mark. The team doesn't have that easy of a road in the near future. After Tech, the Pokes have Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas in their next 5 games. Their 6th will be Bedlam in Norman. The Pokes must turn things around QUICK. Personally, I think Travis Ford should be on the hot seat. Way too much talent and tradition to not have more success than this. However, it was brought to my attention by an avid Pokes fan a couple of days ago that Ford's buyout is crazy and most likely won't be broken.

Time will tell, but I think OSU basketball is staring the NIT right in the face.

And The Thunder Rolls

The Thunder are the hottest team in the Western conference right now and possibly the entire NBA.  Despite an uncharacteristic loss to the Wizards last week, the Thunder have jumped out to a 14-3 start and blown away even my high expectations.  I'll admit, when all of the NBA analysts and experts were picking the Thunder as pre-season favorites in the West, I became a bit nervous. I wondered how this young team would be able to live up to the hype and if they would really exceed last years Western Conference Finals appearance.  Thus far, I have been blown away.

The condensed season appears to definitely be favoring this young Thunder squad as their legs remain fresh deep into games even in back-to-back-to-back's.  What's even better?  The Thunder are taking care of most opponents early on allowing the starters to rest their legs for the majority of 4th quarters.  That is big when you consider the amount of physical demand placed on these players bodies playing games nearly every night of the week.

Continue reading And The Thunder Rolls

While it is still relatively early in the season, the Thunder appear to be on the fast track to finals so long as they don't let their early season success get to their heads.  The Wizards proved to the Thunder that they can't merely just show up and expect to win despite how terrible their opponents record reflects.  The Wizards had no business beating the Thunder and everyone knows it.  The Thunder are vastly talented while the Wizards are the league's bottom feeders with no real talent outside of John Wall.  The Thunder rolled into Washington with the leagues best record against a Wizards squad who had only won one game all year.  It is pretty evident that KD and crew were not motivated for this game and were running on auto-pilot.  Games like that can happen, they just can't happen on a frequent basis.  

The lone bright spot in the Washington debacle?  None other than Mr. Russell Westbrook himself.  Westbrook has quite possibly outplayed Kevin Durant over the last couple of weeks.  Was the early season contract negotiations effecting his on-court play?  It's a legitimate question considering his incredible turn-around since signing his max deal and playing like a true all-star.  Don't get me wrong, Durant has played very well, but Westbrook is really starting to come on and has been one of the main reasons for the Thunder's success thus far.

Did I mention James Harden is also playing all-star caliber ball?  Last night he lit the Pistons up for 24 points going 5 for 6 from behind the arc and making it look easy. He's averaging nearly 17 points a game with 4 rebounds and 3 assists to boot.  He is essentially doing exactly what the Thunder needed out of him and leading the second unit with precision and determination.  The beard is in full effect and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

Do the Thunder have what it takes to make a championship run this year?  Of course they do, but having all the talent in the world doesn't always equal a championship.  The Mavericks proved last year that hard work and dedication with a little bit of luck sprinkled in is the path to a championship.  The Thunder may not be crowned champions this year, but I wouldn't bet against them this season or the next five.

Teach Me How To Gundy!

Pokes fans, you can now breathe easy! Mike Gundy will be calling the shots in Stillwater until 2020. Recently, the OSU Board of Regents announced Gundy has received a contract extension worth 30 million dollars over the next 8 years. That's 3.7 million dollars per year. My only question to the people of OSU: "What took so long?"

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I feel that Gundy is a top 10 college football coach in the country. He's been a proven winner, he's won a Big 12 Championship and he's finally beaten big brother, Oklahoma. That being said, I feel that the state of Oklahoma boasts 2 of the top 10 coaches in the nation. What a great thing Oklahoma has going.

Coach Gundy has been involved with the football program at Oklahoma State for 20 years combined. Four years as a player and sixteen years as a coach. Since 2005, he's served as the head coach, taking over for LSU's Les Miles. In his 7 years on the Pokes sidelines, Gundy has boasted a 59-30 overall record including 23-3 in the last 2 seasons. He's coached some of the best players the country has ever seen. Some notables are: Adarius Bowman (CFL), Brandon Pettigrew (DET), Zac Robinson (CIN), Dantrell Savage (FA), Dan Bailey (DAL), Dez Bryant (DAL), Kendall Hunter (SF), Russell Okung (SEA), Jacob Lacey (IND), Brandon Weeden (NFL Draft), Justin Blackmon (NFL Draft) and a host of others.

There's no doubt in my mind, Oklahoma State football is here to stay. Gundy has a very respectable recruiting class coming in for 2012 and with the facilities OSU boasts, I would imagine it's only going to get better. The stadium's namesake, T. Boone Pickens, isn't afraid to throw millions and millions of dollars around to better not only the football team, but the entire campus. As long as this continues, OSU will be on the national map for as long as anyone.

Teach Me How To Gundy here

Westbrook Signs, Venables Leaves

Some major happenings in the world of Oklahoma sports today.

After breaking down Russell Westbrook's extension only a day ago, the Thunder came to terms with Westbrook today on a 5 year $80 million dollar extension.  This is significant for a number of reasons.  While Westbrook's extension is technically a max extension, it is actually still less than what he could have held out for.  Durant is on the "super max" salary which essentially equates to 30% of the teams cap while Westbrook agreed to the "normal max" which places him in the 25% range of the team's cap range.  Now you may be asking why that 5% difference is so significant?  Well, it could mean the difference between re-signing Harden and Ibaka next season and having to let one or both go.  The way that Westbrook's extension was structured also eliminates the risk of the Rose Rule bumping him if he makes the All-NBA team this season.  His 25% is locked and there is also no opt-out clause built in anywhere meaning #0 is going to be in OKC for the next 5 years no matter what.

Continue reading Westbrook Signs, Venables Leaves

I did question whether or not Westbrook would be a team player and agree to a little less to help out the overall good of the team moving forward and I am pleasantly surprised at his decision to do so.  While Westbrook tends to drive me nuts like no other player, he is also a consensus top 10 player in the league and the fact that he and Durant are locked in together for at least 4 more years is a very good thing.  Westbrook has rebounded from a horrendous start of the season to really beginning to shine as the Thunder now stand at 12-3 and a force to be reckoned with in the Western conference.

Late last night news also broke that OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables had accepted the same position at Clemson.  With Bob Stoops bringing back brother Mike, he had to know that there was potential for defections within his staff.  While Bob tried his best to have his cake and eat it too, it wasn't too hard for Venables to see the writing on the wall.  The defense has failed the Sooners in recent years and Venables took the blunt of the blame.  Having the opportunity to bring Mike Stoops back was a no brainer, but put Venables in a no win situation.  If the defense improves then all the credit goes to Stoops.  Venables knew his reputation was on the line and if he ever wanted a shot at head coaching then he had to move on.  While there's no question Venables was a top notch recruiter, he simply wasn't getting the job done on the defensive side of the ball.  A Stoops and Venables combo as co-coordinators was probably the optimal solution, but if forced to pick between Brent Venables and Mike Stoops then I wouldn't hesitate for a second taking Stoops.

The hard truth is that the Sooner defense just hasn't lived up to the hype in the recent past and changes had to be made.  I wish Venables well at Clemson, but I couldn't be happier having Mike Stoops running the defense once again.

Will Westbrook Sign an Extension?

The Thunder have exactly one week from today to sign Russell Westbrook to an extension before he will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.  So why haven't the Thunder come to terms yet with their all-star point guard?

There are a few things holding this deal up, so let's break them down.

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1. Westbrook and his agent feel like he is a max salary player.  Being an all-star last year and 2nd team All-NBA would usually indicate a max player.  However, the Thunder already have a max player in Durant and if they want to have any shot whatsoever at keeping together their young core then Westbrook is going to have to agree to take a little less.  Having Durant and Westbrook both at max salaries would tie up around 60% of the Thunder's payroll and not leave much to keep players like Harden and Ibaka whose contacts run out next season.

2. The Derrick Rose rule.  What does that mean?  Without trying to get all fancy, it basically means if he makes the All-NBA team again this year then he would be retroactively awarded a much larger sum of money then what the Thunder originally agreed to pay him.  Durant is already benefiting from said rule and if the Thunder sign Westbrook to a max extension and then he makes the All-NBA team then that would put the Thunder in all sorts of financial woes.
​3. Is Westbrook really a max salary player?  OK, so I've come off of my hostility towards Russell a bit since my last Thunder article, but I still have to wonder if the Thunder would really want to risk losing out on Harden and Ibaka long term in favor of Westbrook.  By the looks of things it appears as though Presti is trying to work out a deal where he doesn't have to choose and can keep all of the core intact.  With Maynor going down for the year it has become critical for Westbrook to improve his play and for the Thunder front office to put aside any potential trade thoughts.
​In the end, I think Westbrook will become a restricted free agent, but eventually sign an extension with the Thunder.  Ultimately it's up to Westbrook though if he wants to be a team player and accept a little less cash with the opportunity at multiple championships keeping the core together or if he's all about the highest bidder and getting his.  He has already proven quite selfish on the court, time will tell if he has the same mentality off as well.